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The Smark Henry RAW Report (8/31/15): Of Monsters and Men


From this moment on, I resolve never to take a vacation on the week of a pay-per-view. It just messes with my routine and schedule and makes it too difficult for me to bounce back once I do return. That being said, my recent trip to Tokyo was a hell of a lot of fun, and I’ll be writing about my wrestling pilgrimage very soon on this website.


But for now, I have a (late) RAW report to get to, and I missed checking in with you guys, so let’s get to it!


Pulling Double Duty


While I was just as shocked as everybody last week that Sting came out to be Seth Rollins’ new challenger for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, I can’t really say that I’m upset about it, mostly because I’ve run out of legit challenger options myself. The only problem I see with Sting as the number one contender is that (1) he’s only getting by based on his legend status and (2) he’s a guy whose WWE record is 0-1.  But, hey, wrestling logic, right?


On the flip side, having Sting feud with Rollins is a nice way to continue Sting’s feud with Triple H from earlier this year because now the Vigilante gets to hit Trips through the latter’s golden boy.


Throughout this week’s episode of RAW, I actually found myself wondering if John Cena would show up at all. When he finally did during the closing segment of the show, he did the logical thing, which was to invoke his rematch clause for the United States Championship at Night of Champions. Even though it was a gimme, you still had to give props for the way they wrote that exchange between Cena, Steph, and Rollins. Cena forcing Steph’s hand to give him his rematch because of the “every championship must be defended” rule at NoC was a great touch, and seeing Seth get all whiny after that was icing on the cake.


There are a lot of things that I find myself liking about this double feud scenario as we move towards Night of Champions. The first is that Rollins’ secondary title is actually a big deal, and that says a lot about the work Cena put into restoring the credibility of the U.S. title. The second is that both matches are bound to be decent, at the very least, when the PPV comes around. This is a far cry from the throwaway matches for the Tag Team Championships we had when double champions like the Miz and Chris Benoit were both the world champions and tag team champions, too.


And lastly, both the Sting and Cena feuds are connected. While they can both exist separately in a vacuum, Creative found a way to tie them into the larger storyline of Seth Rollins having to prove himself in the eyes of the Authority as its standard bearer. I was wondering if they had just completely shelved that larger story altogether, and it turns out that they could very well be restarting it, and that’s a good thing. But the question is: does this still work? The easy answer is yes because everyone recognizes that Triple H is looking for a successor in the ring, and while he’s bequeathed his finisher (and top dog status) to Rollins, it still looks like Seth has to truly earn it.


But the real answer is no, it doesn’t work. Giving the Authority a motivation such as “make Seth Rollins prove his worthiness as our golden boy” does not work because it paints the Authority as less evil than Rollins. Plus, it creates fissures within the stable, which make them weaken themselves, when they should be a strong and unified team that exists to make the babyfaces’ lives miserable. The only way in which internal fractures in a stable should work is if it leads to an eventual payoff via a huge face turn to establish a clear hero like when Orton and Batista broke away from Evolution.


As it stands, I don’t think they’re ready to turn Seth face just yet. And for that reason, the Authority needs to stop putting Seth through the gauntlet. I think the Authority needs Kane and J&J back, or new muscle to surround the champion, if they really want the Authority to get its heat back as a whole. It’s not too late for this team to kickstart a run of dominance on top the same way Evolution did in the early 2000s. Hell, give them Kevin Owens and Rusev as the tag team to back Rollins up, and maybe King Barrett as the secondary singles star, and I’ll be sold.


And the NEEEEEEW! Number One Contender...


It’s about damn time the Diva gang wars meant something, and I can’t believe it took WWE this long to give Team PCB’s win at SummerSlam some kind of meaning. The Beat the Clock Challenge was a great way to determine a number one contender from among Paige, Charlotte, and Becky, while subtly planting the seeds for a breakup down the road.


This shot just says a lot. I love it.
Photo from WWE.com
Normally, I want teams and stables to remain together for a long time because that’s how you build attachment to the characters and the stories they’re in. But I’ve officially turned on the #DivaRevolution storyline—not the movement, per se—so I’m all in on a PCB breakup if it leads to a series of great feuds involving these three and the Divas Championship.


I have a bone to pick with Team Bella’s ongoing booking as the jabronis of the division. Even though Team B.A.D. has been largely unused the last couple of weeks, it’s still Team Bella that picks up the losses that ultimately crap on their supposed top Diva status. For starters, Nikki Bella has already tapped out to the Bank Statement. In the men’s division, that would have been enough for a title feud, so where is Sasha Banks’ title shot?


Having Alicia Fox and Brie Bella job to Becky and Charlotte in a relatively short amount of time didn’t do them any favors either. And then it got a bit weird when Sasha was Paige’s opponent because now, it looks like Paige had the toughest opponent out of her team. So the Beat the Clock Challenge would have appeared stacked against Paige. Or I could just be nitpicking here.


In any case, it’s great to see that there is finally a number one contender for the butterfly belt in Charlotte. It also looks like Nikki Bella will all but surpass AJ Lee’s record as the longest-reigning Divas Champion when truthfully, the last two months of her title reign have been a farce.


Gulong ng Palad… Ang Buhay Ay… Gulong ng Palad.


In the latest chapter of the most telenovela story on WWE TV right now, Summer Rae has framed Dolph Ziggler to make it look like he had been cheating on Lana with her.


To borrow a phrase from my boy Vic E. Manuel of the PWR announce team, color me impressed. As much as I hate Dolph and Lana’s on-screen love team, the bigger picture of this feud is turning into a bigger throwback than we give it credit for. I mean, I used to bitch a lot about feuds that don’t involve a title and yet get us invested in them. This feud has everything we Pinoys love to gossip about: kilig factor, relationship troubles, betrayal, and catfighting. Lots of it!


Like this.
Photo from WWE.com
In retrospect, the double countout finish between Dolph and Rusev at SummerSlam did what it had to do, which was to keep the feud hot as it continues. Now the only thing I’m waiting for is Lana’s eventual in-ring debut. It has to happen. And I can’t wait to see how her outfit evolves from there. Okay, on the real, I really want to see Lana wrestle because I want to know how she’ll fare.


A New Day in the Tag Team Division


The New Day has been the best team in WWE right now, and I just enjoy watching these guys do their thing week after week. As if the tag division wasn’t interesting enough on its own, having the Dudley Boyz—a veteran tag team that we haven’t seen in WWE in a decade—back makes me feel #blessed as a fan of tag team wrestling. I’ve been lobbying for the Tag Team Championships to mean something for quite some time and while the division has been deeper than it was in previous years, there’s a clear gap between the champions/contenders (New Day and PTP) and everybody else (Lucha Dragons, Los Matadores, Ascension).


Not sure if Xavier Woods or 80s pop star.
Photo from WWE.com 
Thankfully, having a team like the Dudley Boyz injecting itself into the Tag Team Championship hunt gives us a legitimate contending team that wasn’t just thrown into the match to make it a clusterfuck at the next pay-per-view. Typing that last sentence hurt because I love the Lucha Dragons, but their lack of depth as characters and as a team hasn’t done them any favors.


Kofi just went for a ride on the 3D Express.
Photo from WWE.com
The Prime Time Players still have their rematch clause for the titles, and the Dudley Boyz just beat the New Day on RAW, which opens the door for a three-team feud for the championships. How awesome would it be to have the 2015 version of the E&C vs. Hardys vs. Dudleyz feud with the Dudleyz still being in the same roles? The best part about this is that the Dudleyz could very well give the New Day that well-deserved rub from a veteran team to truly put Kofi, Xavier, and E over the top.


Goodbye, Papa, Please Pray for Me; I Was the Black Sheep of the Family


Let me get this out of the way: Braun Strowman is one impressive physical specimen.


Bray Wyatt also stole that vest from the Arrowcave.
Photo from WWE.com
When he debuted last week and destroyed Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns, I thought they just sold it like a motherfucker. But this week proved that Strowman is the real deal. He’s a legit strongman, and working with Ambrose and Reigns is a great way to break him into the main roster. Strowman doesn’t have to be a technical wizard in the ring because (1) he’s the muscle of a cultish stable—that didn’t look like it needed more muscle—and (2) he’s in a blood feud that should be settled with fists and elbows instead of holds and locks.


I didn’t have any problems with Roman Reigns attacking Strowman during the match, allowing the latter to win via disqualification. It could have gone the other way with Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper attacking Ambrose, but you might as well give Strowman a win via DQ in his first match so nobody can call him out for being winless for such a big guy who made a monstrous debut.


"Where are your Samoan cousins now, Roman?"
Photo from WWE.com
Moving forward, we have to see who Reigns and Ambrose recruit to join their crusade against the Wyatts. I’m really curious as to who it’ll be. At this point, I’ll take whoever outside of John Cena. If Roman Reigns happens to have a pretend Samoan cousin who wrestles in Full Sail, I’m all for it.


One More Match


Kevin Owens and Cesaro had the match of the night on RAW this week as they faced each other in a SummerSlam rematch. At this point, none of us should really be surprised that these two tore the house down again. With Owens getting the win again, traditional wrestling logic dictates that Cesaro will try to get his win back at the next PPV.



While that’s fine and well, I’d rather see Owens and Cesaro alongside Randy Orton and Sheamus—both of whom were conspicuously absent on RAW—in a Fatal 4-Way at Night of Champions to determine the next number one contender. That’s something we’ve been asking for on the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast for quite some time, but I think we need that now more than ever, especially because I fear that both Owens and Cesaro will end up getting lost in the shuffle moving forward.


Taking Five Steps Forward and Ten Steps Back


Here’s a feud I wish they’d just ended at SummerSlam. I actually thought that Big Show was on the way to a face turn as of last week’s RAW, when it seemed like nobody wanted to be his friend, plus all the babyfaces just wanted to bury him with their finishers. And my thoughts were kind of confirmed on SmackDown!, when he turned on Rusev by knocking him out as the latter had Dolph Ziggler in the Accolade during the tag team main event featuring Rusev and Show against Dolph and Ryback.


Unfortunately, all of that development took a couple of steps back this week as Miz, Ryback, and Big Show resumed their feud with Ryback retaining the IC title against Show thanks to a distraction from the Miz. The only way I see this getting interesting is if Ryback and Miz ultimately team up to be the heels, turning Big Show face in the process. What can I say? I’m a sucker for double turns.


*****


Overall, this week’s episode was enough to keep me awake on a Tuesday morning. I appreciated how several storylines were advanced the right way, particularly Seth Rollins’ double champion storyline, the tag team title picture, and Charlotte being named the new number one contender for the Divas Championship. But seeing other stories either run in place (Owens-Cesaro) or take a couple of steps back (Big Show) takes away from what would have been a relatively good episode of RAW. For that, this week’s show gets a B-.


What did you think of this week’s RAW? Would you have preferred a different number one contender against Nikki Bella? How excited are you for the Dudley Boyz’ brewing feud against the New Day and the PTP? Do you think that the Intercontinental Championship is getting the U.S. Championship treatment now? Sound off in the comments section!

*****

Stan Sy is a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, and Smark Henry's official PPV reviewer. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date. Follow him on Twitter: @_stansy

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